Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Imprisonment without trial

One can argue the case of Sami Al-Arian endlessly. What seems certain is that he was pressured into admission of some of the charges against him in order to get out of jail and back to his family as soon as possible. That, of course, has now been thrown back in his face. However, there was some semblence of a legal process, however dubious it was.

In this case, on the other hand, there has been no such process. Imprisonment of a mother and baby without due process is just one more example of the abuse of Palestinian prisoners and the systematic refusal by Israel to recognize that Palestinians are human and deserve human rights.

What most people in the US don't know is that Israelis and Palestinians are subject to entirely different judicial systems. Palestinians, for the most part, are tried by military courts, whereas Israelis are tried in civilian courts. An interesting case that highlights the willingness of Israeli authorities to abuse the court system is that of Ahmed Sa'adat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). After the Israeli authorities kidnapped him on March 14th, along with five other senior PFLP members, there was much noise about him being tried for the 2001 assassination of Rehav'am Ze'evi, the racist, pro-transfer tourism minister under Sharon. However, there was just not enough evidence to show his connection to the assassination in civilian court. So instead, the Israeli authorities decided to try him in military court for 'security offences'. No details given, no public evidence required.

For most Palestinians arrested, there is not even such consideration. They can be held without even seeing a lawyer for eight days, instead of 24 hours for Israelis. They are systematically physically and verbally abused and are often held for indefinite periods without trial or even public accusation.

For more information, a good book about the military court system in the West Bank and Gaza is Courting Conflict by Lisa Hajjar. Definitely worth a read.

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